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Yeast ABV Tolerance

In one of the posts on the board, I was told the yeasty ABV tolerance is measured in grape must and therefore different in mead must. As I am new to mead making, I would like to know more about it… definitely since one of the meads I am trying to clone has an ABV of about 19%. I can get close with champagne yeast, but if I can push my fermentation beyond the published tolerances, I’d love to learn more about that.

Wine yeast ABV tolerance is measured in grape must due to this being the most popular use for wine yeast. While this will often be in the ballpark for mead, it will vary widely in mead depending on source and composition of honey, processing of honey, pH of must (and pH management), temperature, use of SNAs (Staggered Nutrient Additions), etc.

When I first started, I would push the tolerance as most people do. Largely because as a homebrewer, I could. I had mixed results is those early days (read stuck ferments, lots of fusels, and undrinkable mead). All of these things were preventable if I just knew what I was doing back then.
If you want to know how to push the limit, I will tell you, but sometimes it is best to learn what you are doing first. You know, crawl before you walk.

Two thing I would suggest. First, I’ve posted Brays One Month Mead here, at homebrewtalk, and a gotmead. Even if you don’t care about the recipe, it does explain a couple of important things to keep yeast happy in mead. One is addition of potassium bicarbonate to buffer pH swings in mead. This also means don’t add acid blend upfront as was once prescribed. The other thing is it gives the outline for SNAs. You will find everyone uses a different schedule and different mixture of Fermaid k and DAP. My schedule works for me, so I stick with it.

If you really want to learn more about mead specifically, check out gotmead.com. That is the best source of info available for all things mead.

Thanks for for the explanation. The guy who taught me my basics on mead taught me about SNA and potassium bicarbonate. It’s nice to get confirmation I was doing the right thing. Regardless, I think “crawl before you walk” is probably the best advice. I will read up more about this (I registered on gotmead.com earlier this week), I think this particular “clone” (I don’t know how close to the original it is, so I’m not sure yet about calling it a clone) is the only one I’d need/want to break through the ABV tolerance of my yeast.

Thanks again, I really appreciate your comments!

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